London Hughes: a night of self-congratulation and name-dropping – but no Russell Brand

Commanding presence: London Hughes
Commanding and charismatic presence: comedian London Hughes - SOPA Images

Only one comedian went on last Saturday’s explosive Dispatches documentary to speak out against Russell Brand. But plenty have shared their views since – and one of the most vocal has been London Hughes, who was signed up with the same agency as the star (who has denied any allegations of predatory, abusive or non-consensual behaviour) at the age of 22. “I was told unprovoked that I shouldn’t sleep with him under any circumstances as he likes to pursue women, have sex with them,” Hughes claimed on Twitter. “But as soon as he had sex with them, they’d make him feel sick and he didn’t want to be around them anymore, so he would have them fired or dropped from the agency.”

It’s incendiary stuff, but anyone expecting further references to the most tumultuous week in comedy would have been disappointed last night, as all we got was a passing remark about Hughes’s security guard “in case there were any Russell Brand fans in”, and an opening gambit that eschewed topicality in favour of an out-of-date Trump gag.

Perhaps it was empoweringly deliberate, because this show - a hybrid of stand-up and “in conversation” - was, after all, very much about Hughes, her new book, and the new life she has forged in LA. The Croydon comic is excited and dazzled by the opportunities her new US home is affording her, and by her memoir Livin’ My Best Life, Hun (which she “bashed out in two months”) – and her desire and love of fame dominated this two-part show.

It was certainly there in the stand-up set that formed the first half, a truncated version of her swaggering 2019 Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated hour To Catch A D*ck, which charts her terrible dating history alongside the ups and downs of a career that has swerved from Babestation to CBBC presenter to a comedian with a Netflix special. It’s a lesson in “fake it till you make it” and channelling your “inner winner”, and it’s worked – not only is Hughes now hanging out with the likes of Dave Chappelle, but she’s also collaborating with Kevin Hart, which would be impressive were it not for the fact that this reviewer once sat through the filming of a Kevin Hart Netflix special at London’s O2 that was so sub-standard and poorly received by the audience, the programme makers had to force a standing ovation.

The lesson? Self belief and bravado will only get you so far if it’s not underpinned by quality, consideration and craftsmanship, and Hughes needs to keep her head in La La Land if she wants to achieve global domination.

The show’s second half, a lively discussion with Hughes about her book and career led by journalist Akua Gyamfi, offered more insightful, nuanced reflection on her experiences as a black female performer in the UK, and some fun stateside gossip on the Chris Rock Oscars slap (she’s Team Chris Rock – her friend wrote the joke, and you should never slap a comedian). Clearly, she has material for umpteen more books and shows, but her tales are much better served up on stage: wherever she winds up, and whatever her bright future holds, this commanding, vibrant and experience-rich performer oozes charisma, from head to Louboutin-heeled toe.

No further UK dates